Four Candidates for Kingston and Surbiton: Julian Assange Should be Released from Prison
By Jeremy Barras – 27 November 2019
Yesterday evening, inside the Jacqueline Wilson Theatre at Kingston University, I asked two candidates running to represent the area in which I live, Kingston and Surbiton: “Do you think Julian Assange should be released from prison and not extradited to the United States?”
The two candidates I directed my question to were James Giles (Independent) and Leanne Werner (Labour). However the referee of the general election debate redirected the question to all of the candidates that were there.
Out of the six, four said they think he should be released from prison and not extradited to the United States. In alphabetical order, those candidates are: James Giles, Leanne Werner, Roger Glencross (UKIP) and Sharron Sumner (Green Party).
The crux of their answers was the importance of freedom of press, the importance of freedom of speech, and the importance of the United Kingdom not being subservient to the United States — sovereignty.
The other two candidates – Aphra Brandreth (Conservatives) and Sir Edward Davey (Liberal Democrats) – did not answer my question. Instead they argued that we risk dictatorship if politicians or aspirant politicians interfere with judicial process; that this is a matter for the courts, not Parliament.
Having said that, Davey did criticise the Extradition Act of 2003 – a bill he tried to amend in 2004 – highlighting that it has been used to try to extradite people that have autism. I think the case he was referring to is this one.
Following the debate, I walked to the bottom of the theatre to challenge Davey. I pointed out the fact that this case has always been political and politicised (the reason Assange sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, London in 2012 is because he was fleeing political persecution; the reason the police were able to enter said embassy in April, 2019, and drag Assange out of it, is because of political deals; and the reason Lady Emma Arbuthnot – the chief magistrate overseeing Assange’s extradition to the United States – has financial links to the very individuals and institutions Assange has exposed is because of socio-political reasons).
Indeed, I showed him Mark Curtis and Matt Kennard’s article on those financial links and asked him: “Do you think that is a conflict of interest?”
He held my phone. Scanned it. Then refused to answer the question on the grounds that he had only looked at the article for thirty seconds.
He then, in my view, insincerely apologised for not being an expert on Julian Assange’s case because he has had other matters to attend to, namely Brexit; emphasised that not interfering with judicial process is a matter of “integrity” for him; and then vaguely stated that, if there is any wrongdoing, he thinks it should be looked into by an independent body.
But Davey had not had only thirty seconds to learn about how and why the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States is a show trial. I emailed him on 13/04/2019 and on 22/10/2019:
To conclude, we need to make this general election about the imprisonment of Julian Assange and the military-industrial-complex because no one else is going to. That is not to say education, environmental destruction, health care, housing, post, poverty, rail and water are not important; it is to say that those issues are being debated and the imprisonment of Julian Assange and the military-industrial-complex is not: I was the only member of the audience that asked a question directly related to this area.
Perhaps the four candidates that said they think Assange should be released from prison and not extradited to the United States were lying to me and the audience. Perhaps they weren’t. What I do know is that, while they were answering my question, I heard someone behind me, to my left, ask his friend, “Who is Julian Assange?” and I don’t think he would have asked that question if I did not ask mine.